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Dc: This is DCR, a news program not to be believed, coming to you live from Monty Hall at Pandering College, where we are about to hear a most unusual presidential debate. Senator Sam Spleen, the nominee of the Enough Party, said a couple of weeks ago that since no other candidate will debate him, he will debate the person with whom he has the greatest policy differences, someone he is paying to talk to him anyway, his own campaign manager, Rhonda Alonzo. Jennifer Hampster is our chief political correspondent. Jennifer?
Jennifer: Spleen and Alonzo have been fighting like badgers since the campaign started. For a long stretch last winter and spring, no one saw Senator Spleen. At the time we thought he might be in a coma, or dead, but now we know that was just wishful thinking. There was real strife behind the scenes.
Dc: I've heard that the Senator may have actually dropped OUT of the race back then.
Jennifer: Yes, the rumor mill says he left the country for a few weeks, and was kept in the race only because Rhonda Alonzo was stubborn and continued the campaign without him. And gained ground, defeating Governor Dick Burstyn for the party endorsement without Spleen even having to show up at the convention.
Dc: Amazing. But now they're losing.
Jennifer: The Senator has not helped his own cause. He did much better when no one could see or hear him. Which has got to be a humbling realization, for a politician.
Dc: Is there real animosity between these two? Spleen and Alonzo?
Jennifer: It's real, but there's also strategy involved.
Dc: Let's talk about that. We're going to go down to the stage area here at Monty Hall, and our correspondent Bud Buck.
Jennifer: (rolls eyes) Oh, Please!
Dc: Bud, is the animosity real?
Bud: I think it is, but if I could get a quiet weekend alone with Jennifer, I believe we could sort things out.
Jennifer: That's just not possible.
Dc: I mean the animosity between Spleen and Alonzo, Bud.
Bud: Oh, that. Yes ... it's real, but it's also a good strategy because there are some high animosity states hanging in the balance. Ohio ... Missouri ... Places where they really like conflict. And Spleen is determined to fight for them.
Jennifer: All the candidates in every contest are talking about fighting. "I'll fight for you in Washington." "I'll fight for social security." "I'll fight for a tax cut." Fight, fight, fight. The focus groups tell us the people like this idea of passionate fighting. This may well turn out to be our fightingest election ever.
Bud: That's why ... with Senator Spleen, with neither of the major candidates willing to fight him ... has had to turn to his own campaign manager for some drama.
Dc: So it's not real animosity?
Jennifer: Real, but controlled. I think they're aiming for a middle ground somewhere between a Katherine Hepburn / Spencer Tracy sort of bemused testiness, but well short of the outright warfare of ... say ... the Normandy Invasion.
Dc: Let's go to Brick Walters. He'll be providing perspective on the debate, and he's with a group of ordinary voters in Doldrum City, Indiana. Brick?
(sfx: group hubub)
Brick: I'm here with twelve very common voters. They are the most typical we could find. Unremarkable. Uncommitted and unconcerned.
(sfx: group ... nope)
See what I mean? These minds are as unmade up as a teenager's bed. Here in the front row is Lou Serrano, age 54, a manager of a grocery store. What led you to join our panel?
Lou: Somebody asked me and they gave me five dollars.
Brick: Right, but what made you say yes? Influence over the political process?
Lou: Nah. I wanted to get on TV and say hi to my granddaughters, Maddy and Angie! Hi girls! Grandpa loves you!
Brick: So ... no political leanings to speak of?
Lou: (hesitates) Uh .. urp ... no.
Brick: Was that a moment's hesitation there?
Lou: (off mic) No, I had green peppers with lunch.
(sfx: crowd hubub up)
Brick: Ok. Fine. Any other announcements?
Good. We'll be here through the debate. Back to you!
Dc: Thanks, Brick. This is live coverage of the Enough! Party debate between presidential candidate Sam Spleen and his own campaign manager, Rhonda Alonzo. We're about to begin. Jennifer Hampster? What will you be watching for?
Jennifer: A way out. I'd like to get to a major network.
Dc: I mean with the debate.
Jennifer: Oh. Anything at all. I think they're up against the World Series, and I think wrestling is on so if these two want to hold an audience they've got to take some chances, or it could be a very long night for both Alonzo AND Spleen.
Dc: Let's go to Bud Buck down near the stage where Spleen and Alonzo are about to begin. Bud?
Bud: Yes, The air is thick with anticipation. And there's also a lot of hair spray and make up and perfume and after shave. It's like trying to breathe underwater. But we're almost ready.
Dc: Ok, and now let's go outside the hall for a look at activities in the street, with Wendy Vapors.
(sfx: outdoor, group chanting, under throughout Wendy)
Jennifer: Please, Lord ... no!
Wendy: This is Wendy Vapors. I'm outside the hall with the protesters!
Dc: Wendy, what are they upset about? Rigid debate rules?
Dc: The exclusion of other candidates?
Wendy: No, nobody who is OUT of this debate wants to be IN it. The people here are all a lot like David Carper, who runs a pizza delivery outfit not far from Enough! Party headquarters. David, what are you protesting about?
Carper: I'm deliverin' over there 4 - 5 times a day for the past year, almost. "Put it on our tab," they says to me. And the tab never gets paid! I'm here to say ... Enough! To the Enough party. I'm stoppin' the toppin's. Pay your bills! Pay down the debt, starting with what you owe me for pizza.
Wendy: And Mr. Carper is not alone. The line here stretches all the way down the block. There's a landlord, someone from the gas company, office supplies, cellular phone ... like Halloween except for angry adults. All of them want their treats, or they're prepared to play tricks like turning off the electricity and stuff like that.
(sfx: outdoor group chanting fades out)
Jennifer: (bored) Fascinating. OK, we're gonna take it back now and get this over with. The "event" is about to begin. Let's go to the "moderator", who will do his best to get in the way of any real discussion.
Dc: On behalf of the League of Confused Voters, welcome to this first, last and only debate between Senator Sam Spleen, of the Enough! Party, and the manager of his presidential campaign, Ms. Rhonda Alonzo. I'm Dale Connelly here on the campus of Pandering College. My job here is to keep the peace. The two sides have agreed to a series of ground rules. Senator Spleen and Ms. Alonzo will respond to questions from an audience here in Monty Hall. There will be a time limit on responses. They will take turns. They will not make faces at each other or at the audience or the moderator, nor will they show through their expressions or posture that they think the other person is an imbecile, a dolt, a dullard or a nitwit. Senator and Ms. Alonzo, do you understand these rules?
Both: Yup. Sure do.
Dc: Ok, let's get started. The first question is from Oscar Skardo, a leech farmer.
Oscar: Senator Spleen - the government has not recognized the medicinal use of leeches, especially the giant blood sucking varieties from South and Central America. If you are elected, will you do something to let leeches into America's health care system?
Spleen: Well Mr. Skardo, that's an excellent question ... but first I want to thank the League of Confused Voters for organizing this forum. It's vitally important that you, the people, get to ask a straightforward question and get a straightforward answer. I believe in that question and answer process. The question first. Then the answer. It works well for America and it's up to us to make it continue to work. If you choose me as your president, I will fight for the question and answer process on your behalf.
Dc: Ms. Alonzo.
Rhonda: Well here's an example of what's really bugging people about politics. Did you see how the Senator just kinda blew that question off and went to a prepared statement? That is really disrespectful of an ordinary voter who came here to get some information so he could make up his confused little mind. Am I right? Sure I am.
Oscar: What's YOUR position on leeches?
Rhonda: Just a minute. Senator, why can't you stop grandstanding and instead listen to people for a change and just answer the question? I'm coming over there to invade your space to ask you that right now.
Spleen: Am I supposed to ... I thought we weren't going to ...
Rhonda: Look at me, here I am. I'm right here in your space and there's nothing you can do about it. And you think you can be leader of the free world? Guess again!
Spleen: Can't you disqualify her for this?
Rhonda: Don't ask for help. Deal with it.
Dc: I think we should get back to the question. Which was ...
Oscar: What about Government Leech Supports? Raising leeches is my business and without the government backing us up we'll ...
Dc: Time's up. Our next question is from Elvira Kyle, who describes her occupation as ... "Professional Scold." And she has a question for Senator Spleen.
Elvira: Why don't you two stop picking on each other? All the time it's pick, pick, pick! I'm sick of it!
Dc: Ms. Alonzo?
Rhonda: OK, well, that's a good question, but you know, HE started it.
Spleen: Now just a minute.
Dc: Not your turn, Senator.
Rhonda: Since the beginning he has been questioning all my decisions, and I'm the campaign MANAGER. I don't see MANAGER in his title.
Spleen: I'm the CANDIDATE!
Rhonda: Candidate ... in politics means ... product. He's the product and I'm the marketing professional. When he criticizes me, it's like the dinner rolls are climbing off the tray and razzin' the doughboy, you know? And that's not right. Making the sale is my business!
Spleen: I am the candidate. The campaign and its manager are only there as a way for the candidate to realize his dreams. The candidate should never become a puppet of the campaign manager.
Rhonda: Well, a puppet knows the theme of the day and stays on message and knows when to be quiet. I could get a puppet elected. But you, Senator ... you're are no puppet, I'll give you that.
Dc: And now our next question, from Bruce Tepid, a watch maker. And his question is for Ms. Alonzo.
Bruce: Are you single, and can I have your phone number?
Rhonda: Well, aren't you sweet, but really, you know, buzz off, OK?. When you're working on a campaign like this, really, romance and love, even, there's no time or even energy left for it.
Spleen: I couldn't disagree more. This is an issue I care deeply about.
Rhonda: There's something new.
Spleen: Love ... is a many splendored thing. I would go so far as to say ... Love is all you need.
Rhonda: These are clichés.
Spleen: If you want to break it down, "L" is for the way you look at me, "O" is for the only one I see, "V" is very, very extra ordinary ...
Rhonda: Do I get a say in this?
Dc: Wrap it up, please, Senator.
Spleen: In a nutshell ... if I'm given the awesome responsibility of being your president, I will fight for love. The record will show I have been a bigger friend of love than Ms. Alonzo. She puts in these 40 hour days coordinating my campaign and doesn't have time for anybody else. In the meantime, I have been spending long afternoons massaging the toes of my lovely wife of 27 years, Venta. Are you here, honey? Stand up so the people can see you!
There she is! Hi Honey!
(sfx: applause down)
If you put me ... us ... in the White House, I will make sure that Ms. Alonzo, or someone very much like her, continues to work those long hours so I can take personal time out of every day to sit on the south portico with my wife, and we'll sip champagne and eat ripe, red strawberries dipped in chocolate. That's the kind of commitment I intend to have ... to love.
Dc: Ms. Alonzo?
Rhonda: I would really love to hit you right now.
(sfx: crowd hubub up)
Spleen: I'm not going to dignify that with an answer! You should know better than to threaten me. I'm almost the president.
Rhonda: Threaten? I'll do more than threaten! How about this!
(sfx: fighting, punching, crashing)
Dc: I'm going to have to caution you both! This is against the ground rules that YOU set out!
Spleen and Alonzo: Ow! Agh! Ooof!
(sfx: pandemonium, yelling and crashing)
Dc: And so ... as Senator Spleen and Ms. Alonzo try to settle their differences over one of the crucial elements of the campaign ... namely, which of them is more committed to love as a guiding political force and peacefulness as a strategy ... we'll pause for just a moment. A reminder that DCR is on the Internet. Log on to www.minnesotapublicradio.org, and select this program from the menu for a look at scripts from past shows, and audio too! We're always online at minnesotapublicradio.org. When DCR continues ... assuming that order can be restored ... we'll have the lightning round, the conclusion, and some reaction from undecided voters. So ... stay with us!
(sfx: hubub in hall)
Dc: Hello, DCR. Coming to you live from Monty Hall at Pandering College. We've had a break in the action in this debate between Senator Spleen of the Enough! Party and his own campaign manager, Rhonda Alonzo. The ring is being cleaned up right now. Some folding chairs were smuggled into the auditorium by supporters and once they started to fly, debate organizers had little choice but to call a halt to the proceedings. As we wait for things to get started again, let's check with Brick Walters, who is with some undecided voters in Doldrum City, Indiana. Brick?
(sfx: tv sound, cheering)
Brick: (aside) Wow, he's using the pile driver just about the first thing. Incredible, eh?
Dc: Brick? You're on!
Brick: We're .... We're on? Hello! Brick Walters here with twelve ordinary voters!
(sfx: small crowd milling)
It's time already for our first check in! Imagine that. So soon!
Dc: And Brick, were any minds changed in the first part of the debate?
Brick: Yes, they started to make up their minds almost instantly. Uh ... Carol Swang is a ... a financial planner. Did you see something early on that ... spoke to you?
Carol: Well, I noticed the numbers.
Brick: Ah! Fuzzy numbers?
Carol: No, they were clear. The TV was on the wrong channel. I watch wrestling on 9.
Brick: And so that helped you take a position, did it?
Carol: Sure. I wanted wrestling.
(sfx: hubub up)
Carol: I think we all did.
Dc: Brick, is she saying that they changed channels?
Brick: As soon as they saw the debate starting ... They were very clear that they wanted to watch something else.
Dc: They didn't want to inform themselves about the issues?
Brick: Let me ask one of them here. This is Paul Danders, a barber/hairstylist. What made you vote for changing the channel?
Paul: Candidate hair styles are really boring to me. Very conservative. Even the liberals are conservative when it comes to hair. But on TV wrestling, there are some mighty interesting hair ideas on display.
Brick: There you have it.
Dc: Brick, did that develop AFTER Senator Spleen and Ms. Alonzo started slugging each other and throwing the folding chairs?
Brick: Let's get a response to that.
(sfx: hubub up and down)
Paul: ... this is the first I heard about any chairs being thrown. If I had known about that, I might have given the debates another chance.
Carol: I, also was unaware of anything being thrown in the debate. I think of myself as a non-voter, but if a candidate came along who really knew how to do a Flying Guillotine or a Swedish Bulldozer ... I could change my mind.
(sfx: hubub up and hold)
Brick: And the group is saying "yes" also, Dale. I think we might try the debate again if you can promise us that it's going to stay interesting.
Dc: Well, let's find out. We'll bring in Bud Buck who is backstage where Ms. Alonzo ... I believe ... is preparing to come back out.
(sfx: hubub cross fade w/ applause)
Bud: Right you are. Ms. Alonzo is here ... Rhonda ... you took a folding chair to the side of the head. Did that surprise you?
Rhonda: It sure opened my eyes ... he is a real tenacious character. A sort of junkyard dog. He talks about wanting to fight for the people. Well, maybe he just wants to fight. Period.
Bud: You sound like you've developed a grudging respect for the Senator.
Rhonda: There's a grudge, anyway.
Bud: Is there gonna be some kind of resolution to this?
Rhonda: Oh, we'll end it. No question. I'm gonna take the battle to him.
Bud: Ok, thank you and good luck. Back to you.
(sfx: applause up)
Dc: All right, thanks, Bud. And Ms. Alonzo is entering the ring right now to the welcome of the crowd. And Senator Spleen ... is at the back of the hall! Up on the second balcony!
(sfx: applause stops)
I think he's planning to fly over the crowd to make a dramatic entrance here.
Rhonda: (shouting) Go ahead! Jump!
Dc: And here he comes!
(sfx: crowd in awe)
Spleen: (fade on) Whoah! Yeeeeee ha!
Rhonda: Better step back.
Dc: And here he is!
Spleen: Whew! Man, what a rush! I'm back!
(sfx: crowd applause)
Yah! All right! Let's go another round!
(sfx: applause out)
Dc: OK, the next question from our audience here at Monty Hall comes from Tamara Manana.
Tamara: Senator Spleen, at times you say you reject cheap political theatrics and yet here you are flying across the audience on a wire at the debate. It makes me wonder who is really calling the shots.
Spleen: Well ... uh ... I'm not sure I get the point of the question.
Tamara: There's this weird disconnect between what you're saying and doing. I can't predict what you're going to try next. And as I try to picture you as the leader of the free world, with all that power, well, it concerns me.
Rhonda: Of course, you could also look at that as a sort of refreshing, endearing thing too. Couldn't you?
Spleen: (taking the cue) Yes, yes. If I seem a little different from your typical Washington politician ... maybe a little more impulsive and unstable, even ... uh ...
Rhonda: Unstable in a good way.
Spleen: ... it's because I'm not a Washington poltician. I went to Washington once and hated it there.
Dc: But I think she raises a good question. Even though the cold war is over, Senator, the American president does have his "finger on the button," so to speak, and when we see you getting into a brawl with Ms. Alonzo here ...
Spleen: Let me clear that up. What we were doing there was a kind of artistic representation of political differences ... but it was kind of like street theater.
Rhonda: I know how to hit him in the head with a folding chair so that it doesn't hurt him.
Spleen: Why don't you show them how we do it.
Rhonda: Watch this!
Rhonda: See ... he's hardly staggering.
Spleen: (woozy) The other thing ... about the finger-on-the-button issue. The guy who carries that briefcase with the launch codes in it ... he's a burly Marine. If I was gonna do something foolish or impulsive ... I would have to get past him and ... look at me. I don't think ...
Rhonda: Even though the Senator is a fighter.
Spleen: Those Marines have special training.
Rhonda: They really are our first AND last line of defense.
Dc: We have time for one more question ... and it comes from Jeff Truncheon, a hard boiled detective in private practice.
Jeff: Just minutes ago you two were dukin' it out. Now you're makin' kissy-face and proppin each other up. My question is this. Is this a scam, or a put-on?
Rhonda: Thanks for that question. That's really good. I'm glad you asked it.
(music: sneaks in)
Is it a scam or a put on? There's a third choice. Not a scam, or a put on, but a real, genuine, dysfunctional mess. But ... ask yourself ... is that so odd? Don't you also work with people who ... sometimes do things that make you say ... Gol! What's up with that?
And aren't you able to get a good result sometimes in spite of them? And aren't you glad to get the chance? That's all I want. A chance. I disagree with the Senator a lot and I think he's bull headed and dim witted sometimes but I'm not gonna hold that against him, because if he gets to the White House, then I get to the White House. And once I'm there, I can find all sorts of ways to work around him and make a better world for all of us, without him ever knowing, until it's time for him to take credit for it. That's my dream. That's my purpose in life. And that's why I'm here. Thank you.
Dc: Senator, can you make this your closing statement?
Spleen: Can I have the music too?
Dc: Sure, that's fair.
Spleen: I didn't get into this to make money. I didn't get into it to hold power over other people. I got in it so that I could say "look at me, I'm the president." And face it, if you did this, you'd be doing it for the same reason. It would be a kick, wouldn't it? You don't have to drive anywhere. Every meal is cooked for you and you don't have to carry any change or even any ID for at least four years? A party every night? Wow.
But there's work to do. And what I wanted to show you here in this hall is that I can hold my own against the people who will really do that work, the little people, like Rhonda. People who think they're pretty smart, who think they can manage me and control my agenda, when in fact I'm managing them and they don't even know it! That's the sign of a true leader. He's surrounded by people who think he's a big dummy. They'll never know how wrong they are. That will be a secret between just us. You, the American people, and me ... your president. Sound like a deal? I think so too. Let's get going! You do your part, and I'll do mine. Thank you.
Rhonda: (aside) Whoah. You nailed it.
Spleen: I have no idea what any of that means.
Rhonda: Trust me. It's working.
Dc: And from Monty Hall on the campus of Pandering College, this has been an Enough! Party debate between the party's candidate for president of the United States, Senator Sam Spleen, and his campaign manager, Rhonda Alonzo. And that's our show. Thanks to the cast, BG, SS, PM, JEP, and LWH. The show is produced at MPR in St. Paul by SV, and is written by yours truly. Join us again next time for more news not to be believed, on DCR.